Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: February 14, 2016

First Sunday of Lent-C


Deuteronomy 26: 4-10
Romans 10: 8-13
Luke 4: 1-13


Advice columnist Ann Landers once invited her readership to submit some of the lies that people often tell.  This is what some of the readers sent in:

“Ten pounds is nothing on a person of your height!”

“You made it yourself?  I never would have guessed!”

“You don’t look a day over forty!”

“Of course I’ll respect you in the morning!”

“It’s delicious, but I just can’t eat another bite!”

“The new ownership won’t affect you. The company will remain the same as it was before.”

“You don’t need this in writing – you have my personal guarantee!”

“Put away that map – I know exactly where I’m going!”


Lies…we hear them so often.  And a lie is at the foundation of nearly every sin we commit.

In today’s Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, Jesus goes out to the desert to fast and pray.  And we hear about the devil coming to Jesus and tempting Him with three big lies.

In the first temptation the lie is: “If it feels good, just do it!”

Jesus had been fasting for forty days and forty nights, and He was hungry.  The devil says to Him, “Well if you are the Son of God, take that stone over there, use your divine power and change it into a loaf of bread.  You are hungry, aren’t you?”

Jesus was in the desert to be alone with His Heavenly Father.  The devil wanted Him to just call it quits.  “Who cares what your Heavenly Father’s plan is?  You are hungry now.”

If it feels good, just do it.

We all know what the desert is like.  We have all been there, and maybe you are there right now:  the desert of losing a loved one, an illness, a divorce, unemployment, a dream that has crashed and burned.  There are lots of deserts, and the lie comes to us:  “Get out of that desert – you deserve some comfort for yourself.  If it feels good to you right now, just do it!”

Yet the voice of God is saying to us, “You are in the desert, and here is time when only I can renew you.  Listen to My voice – I am with you.”

That is the first temptation with its lie:  “If it feels good, just do it.”

The second temptation is also based on a lie:  “Seize the moment and forget about eternity.”

The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth in an instant: “These all belong to me and I can give them to whomever I wish.”  [This is another lie. They don’t belong to the devil at all.]  “All you need to do, Jesus, is bow down and worship me, and they’re all yours.”

“Seize the moment. Forget about eternity.”  If Jesus had fallen for that lie He would never have gone to His cross – and then where would you and I be right now?  Unredeemed and left in our sins.

Jesus didn’t fall for that temptation.  Jesus always had in mind the present moment with its eternal significance.

The third temptation carries this lie:  “Look out for number one, because if you don’t, nobody else is going to!”

The devil took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and led Him up a tower and said, “All right – if you are the Son of God, leap off!  And the angels will come and rescue you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”  What was the devil tempting Him to do?  To be a celebrity miracle worker.

But that is not why Jesus came – to look out for Himself.  He came to be our Redeemer and Savior by laying down His life for us on the cross.  He made Himself the last of all and the servant of all.

These three lies of the devil are still with us, aren’t they?  “If it feels good now, do it.”  “Seize the moment and forget about eternity.” “Look out for number one, because if you don’t, nobody else will.”

There is another lie that is still with us and is perhaps even more foundational than these other three:  “You really can’t trust God.”

Ever feel that way:  being in a desert, feeling powerless, unsure where to go? …and thinking, I just can’t trust God?

I was thinking about my mother and father, and remembering my mother’s fortieth birthday.  As she was approaching that birthday she was also expecting my little brother, the sixth baby in our family. Turning forty, and being pregnant – she wasn’t happy about either one.

My parents were absolutely pro-life – having this baby wasn’t the question.  But even being pro-life didn’t mean that my mother was really excited about that pregnancy at age forty.  Chrystopher was born during the summer before my senior year in high school.  Being the firstborn, I’m seventeen years older than he.

I remember that fortieth birthday of my mother two weeks later.  She did not want a party.  We got her a cake and she was not pleased.

Five years later, my father died of cancer.  My mother told me so many times thereafter how grateful she was to God for the birth of Chrystopher.  After my father died she had a little boy to love and to raise, and God could not have blessed her more richly.

She trusted in God even when she didn’t feel like trusting in God. When we trust in God it doesn’t always mean that everything is immediately going to be just the way we want it.  But God will work out His own purposes, in His own good time and in His own good way…. Trust in God.

African-American Christians have a wonderful hymn that carries this theme.  It reminds us to look at the cross, to see the arms of Christ outstretched with an embrace that welcomes every single one of us.  It is entitled, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.  Here is verse three:

What have I to dread, what have I have to fear,

Leaning on the everlasting arms?

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,

Safe and secure from all alarms.

Leaning, leaning,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.


Whatever desert you are in right now, know that God is with you.  Whatever voices of deception tempt you, listen for His voice of truth.  Trust Him.  The embrace of the Lord’s arms is wide on the cross.

For we are:

Leaning, leaning,

Safe and secure from all alarms.

Leaning, leaning,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.

If you would like to see a video of Solveig Henderson’s rendition of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” click here.